Street Art: A Conversation Piece

By Wendy Justine

If you're looking for the most captivating art form, you'll be looking in the streets. Street art or graffiti has been around since the ancient times, but has seen a recent resurgence with the rising popularity of a more unconventional art form. Its popularity may come in part from the art's message of inspiration or rebellion; the now somewhat cliché idea of thinking outside the box; or just a natural interest in the art, its detailed color, design, and execution. There's an endless creative approach to the art, being showcased as installations in or on the street, spray-painted walls of a building, or plastered photographs alongside construction sites. With such a diverse approach to the art, only one thing is certain: it won't be making an exit any time soon.

Famed British street artist Banksy has been bringing his art to the streets since the early ’90s and is now a few spray cans away from becoming a household name. Whether he's creating pieces with spray-painted stencils or constructing statues or mobile art forms, his work always brings about controversy over its meaning or the idea of it even being called “art.” His most recent exhibit, Better Out Than In,  was no different. Banksybrought his style to the streets of New York for the entire month of October, unveiling a new piece each day, drawing massive crowds, media coverage, and debate. While most of his pieces were tagged over by local street artists or covered shortly after being unveiled, he captured each piece with a photograph, posting them on his website.

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While French street artist, JR's, approach is quite different from Banksy's, his work renders just as much attention. JR's usual technique consists of large black-and-white portraits plastered onto anything you can imagine. One of his more recent works celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Photographs were placed throughout neighborhoods Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in, relaying a message of progress and hope, as well as an understanding of the struggles and stigmas that still plague the black community. 

Artists like JR and Banksy, who leave their work showcased across the world, have inspired other artists to use the street as a launching pad for their works. Sheila Bright's 1960 Who gave recognition to 12 faces of the non-violent protests of the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta. Placing black-and-white photographs spanning several blocks in the city of Atlanta, her work inspired conversations within a community on who the faces of 1960 Who represented and the impact they had on their community. She plans to take more of her work on the road to different cities across the U.S., sparking more discussion and reflection.

Art for the time being has moved away from the more traditional format. With society moving to a more digital space, the art is evolving with the culture and people creating it. The sole purpose of placing art in the street is to grasp the attention of those passing by. Whether it sparks feelings of admiration, intrigue, or outrage, if it's got you talking, the art has done its job.

Additional Photography by Wendy Justine.

And watch Banksy's New York City Art stunt on our Video page. 

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